J.R. Johnson

Capitalist Intrigue Runs Riot As –

Henry Wallace Proposes to Divide the World

(30 September 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 39, 30 September 1946, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by
Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

It will be remembered that the press almost unanimously went haywire over the sight of Truman endorsing Byrnes’ “tough” policy with Russia and at the same time giving the okay to a speech by Wallace criticizing Byrnes.

Labor Action refused to be drawn into speculation as to how and why this had happened. We tried to make it clear that both policies, however much they differed, were but variations of the imperialist policy of the U.S.

We do not, however, entirely ignore the differences between the leaders of the ruling class. And certain aspects of this Wallace-Truman episode are full of instruction and warnings. The liberal press in particular preoccupied itself with what had happened and how it had happened. They fastened on Truman’s “personality” and Truman’s “stupidity” compared with the “wisdom” of the late President Roosevelt.

What Rumors Mean

Amid the crop of rumors there stood out an article by the usually well-informed and capable Arthur Krock of the New York Times.

Krock threw some of the blame for the chaos and confusion upon Truman’s “personality.” Truman, it was said, had listened to sections of the speech only. Wallace had not read the whole speech to him. These bits he had endorsed. But when the newspaper men at his first conference began to bait him, he was anxious to show that they could not make trouble between him and his Secretary of Commerce. He therefore gave the impression that he had heard and endorsed the whole speech. Hence came the confusion.

This may or may not be true. What is true is this: Since the last week in July, Truman had in his possession a letter from Wallace which strongly criticized Byrnes’ policy. Not only that. Truman had asked for views on foreign policy from his cabinet. It is clear, therefore, that Truman was not dependent upon what Wallace read to him in order to know Wallace’s views. Furthermore, we now know that Byrnes had read Wallace’s letter many weeks ago. Thus it is inconceivable to this writer that Truman did not know what Wallace thought about foreign policy.

What Truman Faces

Finally, we now know that two hours before the speech was delivered, Clayton of the State Department informed Truman that the speech would seriously embarrass Byrnes. Truman did nothing.

Thus the idea that Truman did not know what Wallace was going to say seems to fall to the ground. In any case, it does not matter.

Instead of getting tangled up in speculation as to whether Truman is a moron or is lazy, or obstinate, or other psychological investigations, the workers would benefit greatly by looking at the difficulties in which Truman finds himself, and which are a far more reasonable explanation of his contradictory behavior. For example:

Truman has to support Byrnes in in Paris. But he has to do something about Wallace at home. There is an election coming. Wallace “represents” the labor and New Deal elements in the Cabinet. It is possible that Wallace, recognizing his strength and feeling the pressure of his supporters, insists upon being allowed to express his views. Truman may be afraid to antagonize the votes Wallace is supposed to represent.

On the other hand, Truman may be anxious to get rid of Wallace. He may wish to appoint another New Dealer not so tied up with the Rooseveltian past. He may be afraid of a going to the right in the electorate. Under such circumstances he would allow Wallace to make the speech and then watch carefully public reaction. According to this, he would know exactly what to do with Wallace. It is an old trick.

Is Truman plotting to get Wallace on a spot where he will be able to say: “Under these circumstances, you cannot remain in the Cabinet any longer”? It is not impossible. Listen to this:

About Pearson’s Letter

Pearson, the newspaper correspondent, receives a copy of Wallace’s first letter from the State Department.

Truman informs Wallace through Ross, White House press secretary, that he does not wish the letter to be published. This is at four o’clock. At 5:30, Cotton, Wallace’s press secretary, tells the press that the White House has agreed to publication. The White House, however, neither approves nor disapproves. It merely authorizes release.

At 6:30 the United Press states that Mr. Truman approved the release. At 6:50 United Press orders that the 6:30 statement be deleted. At seven o’clock, Ross; White House secretary, states that Mr. Truman had specifically “disapproved” of the release. But by this time it was too late to stop publication. Ross called the whole thing a “misunderstanding.”

Good. Suppose it is. But one cannot help seeing that this “misunderstanding” results in the publication of a highly explosive document, an intensification of the scandal, and greater difficulties than ever in the Cabinet, if Truman wants to clear him out.

What Labor Should Do

Today we learn that Wallace will keep his mouth shut until after the Paris Conference. Thus there is a compromise. One is tempted to ask: “So what?”

The moral of all this for the workers is plain. “We are not going to get excited about all this capitalist political intrigue.”

If Wallace had proposed a genuinely new policy, that would have been something else. But Wallace proposes to divide the world. He is not even pretending to be anti-imperialist. Hitler wanted, or said he wanted, to divide the world with Britain and the U.S. Wallace was among those ready to spend thirty million lives and untold wealth to defeat him. Yet today this same Wallace proposes to deal with Stalin on exactly the same principles. Neville Chamberlain, however, was ready in his time to make a deal with Hitler. Yet he declared war on Hitler when Hitler attacked Poland. Wallace in time will act. the same way with Stalin. There is no peace either by way of Wallace or by way of Byrnes. And that is what matters to the workers!

Labor Action therefore warns the working class. Beware of being tangled up in these imperialist quarrels. Let us observe capitalist bankruptcy only to be more firm in the determination to abolish capitalism. They led us into World War I. They led us into World War II. And unless we get rid of them, they will lead us into World War III.

All of the superficial journalists in the capitalist press are having themselves a field day gossiping about the differences between Wallace and the Truman administration. There are differences, of course. In these columns we have tried to point them out.

But important as these differences are, they are not as important to the workers as is the fact that both Byrnes and Wallace advocate different versions of imperialist policy.

Their differences are essentially differences on how to conduct the policy of U.S. imperialism – but they are agreed on the need to maintain it.

We on the other hand say that it is only by the abolition of imperialism and the system which breeds it, capitalism, that the terrible threat of atomic warfare can be averted.

Last updated on 8 July 2019